Vicarious MFA: Jonathan Safran Foer & David Markson
Last Friday Jonathan Safran-Foer came to do a guest lecture titled “Intersections.” It was clear that he put a lot of work and thought into the lecture and I feel like I will do it a disservice by trying to describe his overall “point,” but I will say that he showed us this short video of a completely insane intersection in Hanoi. Please click on that. It is ridiculous. He also mentioned that one of the buildings on Columbia’s campus (one that is right by the Writing Department) used to be a part of the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum. He also mentioned Hiroshi Sugimoto, a photographer who Jonathan Safran-Foer wrote a fan letter to when he was in college and whom he later got to collaborate with on a project called “Joe.”
There was a point to Safran-Foer’s guest lecture and I felt smarter and more calm when I left, but I can’t quite say why. From what I have gathered in the past 3.5 semesters in an MFA program, this is what it feels like: I have learned something; I feel different/better; I can’t explain why/what happened.
On Monday we talked about David Markson’s Reader’s Block. Some people hated it. Some people didn’t understand why it had to be called a novel. Some people loved it. Some people felt abused. I felt like I was happy that I had read it, though it could have been half as long. I agreed with the people who said the book was a little abusive, but I was also happy to learn the things that I learned. For instance. Giacometti said that if a building was on fire and he had to save either a living cat or a Rembrandt, he would go with the cat. Good move.
Tuesday was workshop. Essays discussed the elderly, Obama, a dam in California, Jay-Z, a diseased Salmon population and uncertainty.
On Thursday we’re talking about Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby in the First Book seminar.
Friday is the 1st day of Spring Break, so I will be away next week on the first real vacation I have ever taken in my life. I will be reading Running in The Family by Michael Ondaatje, and Low Life by Luc Sante.